Review: MotherFreakingHood! Is a Smart and Hilarious Musical at the Venus Cabaret Theater
The musical is alive and well and takes aim at millennial motherhood in all of its glory. It is so perfect that I went to see MotherFreakingHood! at the Venus Cabaret Theater in Lakeview on a Saturday afternoon. The area is chock full of millennials with hordes of adorable moppets coming from organized arts and crafts parties, Candyality, or a sundae at the Dairy Queen. This is a musical made for the moms who organize those parties and activities.
MotherFreakingHood! is written and produced by Julie Dunlap and Sara Stotts. The audience is taken along on a journey of three women from the plus sign on the pee stick to high school graduation. It is quite a ride directed and co-produced by Heidi Van with firecracker energy that spills into the aisles of the intimate Venus Cabaret.
It appeared that the cabaret audience was filled with quite a few moms. They looked at each other with knowing glances and I even saw a few tears being shed at the memories being played out on the stage. We are introduced to a high-powered career woman Angie Miller, CPA, who has planned every part of her pregnancy and the routine after. Jacquelyne Jones is fantastic as the buttoned-up mom who is driven to the edge and brought back by her friends.
Jacquelyne Jones, Leah Morrow, Tafadzwa Diener. Photo by Liz Lauren.
Rachel Nixon is a marketing consultant and first-time mother who has tried for a long time to have a baby. Tafadzwa Diener plays Rachel with the wonderful sweetness and innocence of someone who has no idea of what is to come. She is always on the phone with her mother and has visions of creating that picture-book family.
Rounding out the trio is Marcia Burger who has three daughters in junior high. Leah Morrow is flat-out hilarious as Marcia. She sees that plus sign and it is an ‘oh shit’ moment as she cancels her wine club, tequila club, and Weight Watchers for the foreseeable future. Marcia is the “seen it all and has the t-shirt collection” mom who thought she was going to buy a convertible and go to Mexico.
Maya Rowe is Everywoman playing Nurse Klepper, Wander Wonder, the fabulously butch Coach, the cranky school Principal, and most hilariously, a Minnelli-esque Xanax angel. Rowe plays every role with a touchy-feely gropey angle that made me laugh until my sides hurt. Everywoman pops up at every phase of the children’s lives from birth to graduation and Rowe plays each one to the hilt.
The music and lyrics are written by Julie Dunlap and Sara Stotts under the musical direction of Linda Madonia. It is a hit parade of memories that every mother—no matter the era—relates to. The song list is like a K-Tel commercial from back in the day. There is the lullaby “Have You Seen My Baby?” The supermarket nightmare “Have You Seen My Baby? (No Really!)”
Jones belts out “Prayer for a Late Bloomer” and hymn to God that her daughter does not get too pretty too soon. Diener and Morrow join in with a gospel-tinged harmony. The hits keep coming when Marcia’s son JJ makes a prize-winning creation from his mom’s “More-gasm” vibrator and a skateboard. Tafadzwa takes “Teenage Driver Hell Zone” to the rafters. Rowe steals the spotlight with “Pharmacology”—a song about the modern mother’s little helper called Xanax. The glittery tuxedo jacket and lopsided lipstick take Minnelli over the top.
MotherFreakingHood! is in time for Mother’s Day, which is every day for the people who are raising or have raised children. This is the thrill of thinking that you can mold your own little human to the wide-eyed horror when that human starts a punk rock band and takes your minivan on the road for a warehouse tour.
From the breast to the bottle to the wine glass, MotherFreakingHood! is a fun, witty, and raucous musical that is not for kids. Also, they have a nice bar at the Venus Cabaret where you can drink along and then sing along (yes there is a sing-along!). Check it out. You will dig it and can get all hopped up on sour cherry balls from Candyality.
MotherFreakingHood! runs about two hours including a 15-minute intermission to get a refill. The musical plays through June 11 at the Venus Cabaret Theater in the Mercury Theater at 3745 N. Southport Ave. in the Lakeview neighborhood. Single tickets are $65 and a premium four-top table is $260. For more information and tickets visit www.mercurytheater.com.
For more information on this and other productions, see www.theatreinchicago.com.
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